The Whitby Witches | Chapter 2

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As he passed under the dark loft opening, all the hairs on the back of his neck prickled and rose. He felt sure something was up there, watching him from the shadows – something that could close bedroom doors. 

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  The vivid sense of place which bombarded us last time continues into this chapter as Miss Boston and Jennet have their first real heart-to-heart on that draughty bench outside the Church of St Mary.

Many of us, myself included, loved the kindly, unflappable Aunt Alice from the moment we met her, but this scene cements her integrity further. Since the death of their parents, Jennet and her brother have been cast adrift in the world, and Ben’s supernatural power has only served to exacerbate their outcast status. I love and appreciate how Miss Boston seeks to bolster their flagging trust in adults by treating them with respect despite their youth, and getting them to engage with Whitby as if it were already their home.

Perhaps the most touching moment comes when Jennet nervously describes Ben’s ability to see ghosts, only to have Miss Boston breezily accept her every word and describe ‘the sight’ as a gift. There’s also lots of excellent foreshadowing with Miss Boston’s blood-curdling tales of the town’s history and legends – even the Barguest gets a look-in. I love the line, ‘Don’t pretend to be a vampire, Benjamin, you haven’t got the cloak for it’. Unlike every other prospective guardian the children have met, Miss Boston embraces the macabre and magical, which may turn out to be just what Jennet and Ben need.

One of the most prominent themes of this trilogy is the fantastic blended innocuously with the mundane, and this chapter demonstrates that perfectly. Talk of ghostly apparitions and Dracula merges seamlessly into the very 1990s BBC comedy of Miss Droon and her wayward cat, and then, before we can be lulled into a false sense of security, the sleeping, sinister secrets return with Ben’s foray into the old house. On reread I noticed how this ‘classic horror’ sequence, with its sudden door-slams and ominous attics, resembles a later scene in another, completely unrelated Robin Jarvis trilogy. I’ll have to sit on that for a while, however, so do put it to the back of your minds for the time being.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Miss Boston is such a fantastic creation. And for those who haven’t yet read Robin’s comments on this in his own website, she is a combo of author Lucy Boston, of the Green Knowe series and actress Margaret Rutherford who (among other things) was one of the first – perhaps the first – actress to portray Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple.

The scene in the graveyard is a beautifully paced ‘defrosting’, where the kids start to realise that maybe things won’t be so bad here in Whitby. (Unfortunately, I always get nervous any time somebody starts to get settled comfortably into somewhere in a Jarvis novel, because it means things are probably going to get very unsettled.)

I’ll be curious to see which other trilogy Aufwader is thinking of here. It makes me think of Dancing Jax which also opens in a decrepit two-story house, with a staircase leading upwards and – come to think of it – black mould. Urgh. Black mould.

Anyway, Ben found the cat and avoided the creepy thing in the attic, and Aunt Alice has cracked a slightly off-colour joke about cats. So enjoy this little moment of a chapter that ends quietly with everybody in a happy mood. The mood might not last forever …

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6 thoughts on “The Whitby Witches | Chapter 2

  1. In terms of protagonists, Boston is definitely one of the best the series had, definitely one of the most fun at the least! I think this part does at least kinda act not only as a setup for the later goings on in the story itself, but also as a way for Jarvis himselfto say just why he loves Whitby – after all he has talked before about how he despises how a good few fantasy authors just decide to loot other cultures for their superstitions as ‘ours arent interesting enough’ which he feels (accurately) is rubbish.

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  2. I have a newfound appreciation for Aunt Alice. The way she instantly sweeps Jennet and Ben into her life is utterly endearing. And I love Miss Droon too, with her three-legged cat!

    Ben’s venture into the old house is still super chilling to me. Even though I know what’ll happen, there’s something about old houses and the dark shapes that reside in them that scare me more than anything else. After all, in abandoned buildings with abandoned energies, who is to say what festers there?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Miss Droon is great. I don’t know what I love most about her. Is it the guilty darting of her eyes when Alice sarcastically invites her to try some of the biscuits she’s already helped herself to? Or is it how she forgets to mention that Eurydice is a cat, causing Jennet to imagine a pregnant woman aimlessly wandering the streets of Whitby?

      In my opinion, abandoned houses should have signs on the lawn warning people that the council cannot be held legally responsible for trespassers who go and get themselves eaten by some shadowy horror lurking under the cellar stairs. Enter at your immortal soul’s own risk.

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  3. I feel terrible for Jennet when she talks about the awful time she and her brother had at the foster care system’s mercy. How she had to lie in bed and listen while her own uncle agreed to give up the children…ugh. I can’t imagine how I would feel in her place. Her own uncle. A man who should have done everything in his power to protect the children of his dead brother but instead threw them away like damaged goods. The implication that his wife used a certain hateful word to describe Ben is enough to make me wish for the power to summon fire and brimstone to rain down upon a character who doesn’t even appear in the story. Anyone who calls another person that instantly becomes unforgivable in my eyes. I’m so glad that brother and sister are out of that emotional meat grinder of a situation and living with someone who cares for them.

    Does the We Appreciate Alice Boston Society require the services of a scribe? Because I’m good at typing and I can start today! Put simply, she is the undisputed queen of Whitby. My heart is always melted when she points out that Jennet is the best sister Ben could have because she stood by him when everyone else rejected him. The smile Jennet breaks into is like the sun coming up as she realises that she and her brother do have people who understand what they’ve gone through and and care about them.

    Did anyone else grin when it was mentioned that Aunt Alice owns a corn dolly and that the abandoned house has mice living in it?

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